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Healthy Living

Sleep and Health (1)

Sleep is not necessarily something that springs to mind when we think about making changes that can benefit our health. However, there is an abundance of research which shows getting an adequate amount of good quality sleep has significant benefits on our physical and emotional health.

What impact does not getting enough sleep have?

The brain

When we’re tired, we might notice that we’re less able to concentrate, and feel less productive or focussed. Tiredness can also make us less rational and reasoned in the choices we make. In other words, our resistance lowers when we have had less sleep. Research has shown that our brain responds differently to higher calorie foods when we are tired, meaning we are less likely to be able to resist them.

The metabolism

Lack of sleep also has a physiological impact on the body, altering the balance of appetite hormones, blood glucose regulation systems and our metabolism. When we are tired, our bodies contain more of a hormone called ghrelin, this is a hormone that increases appetite. Thus, when we are deprived of sleep we often feel more hungry. In addition, studies have shown that restricting sleep can reduce our bodies ability to breakdown glucose; a characteristic similar to what is seen in diabetes.

The heart

Sleep provides the body with an opportunity to regenerate and reset. Scientists believe that the ‘recharge’ that occurs in deep sleep is important for glucose regulation as well as providing an opportunity for the body to lower heart rate and blood pressure. Hence, sleep and quality of sleep play a crucial role in maintaining heart health, blood pressure and allowing the brain to ‘wash out’ toxins that accumulate during the day.

Summary

When we have not had sufficient sleep our body experiences physiological changes that drive appetite and less healthy choices. Sleeping well means we are more likely to have the energy to be more active and make healthier choices. Sleep also helps our metabolism function normally, and helps regulate blood pressure and reduce risk of heart problems.


I will continue this sleep series in my next post covering points that might help improve sleep quality. However, if you have concerns about any aspect of your sleeping routine, please visit your GP for further advice.


In my consultations I will often ask about sleep routine and sleep quality with my clients. Find out more about my consultations here.


Healthy Living, Nutrition

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are found in lots of different foods, in the form of sugar, starch and fibre. For the purposes of this post, I’m talking about starchy carbohydrates; that’s potatoes, rice, pasta, cereals, bread etc.

Why eat carbs?

“I need to cut out bread”

“No carbs before Marbs”

“Carbs make me gain weight”

Any of these sound familiar? Starchy carbs get a bad reputation. The fact is, starchy carbohydrates are an important part of our diet, and if we cut them out we risk missing out on lots of nutritional benefits. Carbohydrates are what our body prefers to use as energy, and they also contain fibre and B-vitamins. If we can choose good quality carbohydrates and eat them in sensible amounts, they can help us feel fuller for longer, provide a good amount of fibre (for bowel health), help us manage our weight and reduce our cardiovascular disease risk.

What is a good quality carbohydrate?

Choosing wholegrain or higher fibre options will help with satiety (keep you feeling full). In the UK generally, we could all do with eating more fibre. Try wholewheat pasta or brown rice, and try to choose wholemeal breads. That’s not to say that there is anything ‘wrong’ with other carbs (white bread, white pasta, etc), they just don’t have all the same nutritional benefits. Try to choose higher fibre options most of the time, but white carbs are not evil either! With all carbs, be mindful about what you add to them and how much of them you have.

How much should I eat?

The Government’s Eatwell guide illustrates that just over a third of our diet should be made up of starchy carbs. I usually suggest that if we can think about including a portion of starchy carb at each meal, this is a practical way of ensuring we have enough.

So what is a portion?

How much an individual needs will vary from person to person. It also depends on your starting point of what a normal portion is for you! As a rough guide, 1-2 clenched fists would be a portion. If you are looking to reduce your carbohydrate intake, I would suggest you do it slowly, rather than a drastic change. Try to notice things like how full you feel, whether you feel satisfied on less or get hungry sooner after eating. Your body will tell you what feels right, try to notice the cues!


Note: there are some occasions where a low carbohydrate diet is medically indicated. If you have been advised to follow a low carbohydrate by a healthcare professional (and it is being supervised), you should continue to follow their individualised advice.

Healthy Living, Nutrition, Weight Loss

Calories

Calories. The foundation of so many diets. The basis of the eat less, move more message. But can foods really be ‘ranked’ based on their calorie value? Is it necessary to count calories to lose weight?

What is a calorie?

A calorie (or kilocalorie/kcal if we are being technically correct) is a unit of energy. It is a value obtained in a lab by measuring how much energy is required to increase a kilogram of water by one degree celsius. Hence, scientifically speaking, all calories are the same. However, our bodies are not scientific laboratories. The way our body uses the food, and what it can get out of food, varies. This means that the calorie values stated on foods are an approximation of what our body will take from it.

How many calories do we need?

If we eat less calories than our body needs, we will lose weight. If we eat more calories than our body needs, we will gain weight. So how many calories do we need? You may know that the Government issue recommendations for daily calorie intake for men and women to maintain weight (2000kcals for women, 2500kcals for men). These are a guide. A very, very loose guide. It can be simple to look at the calorie value of a food, add up the foods eaten during the day and come up with a daily total. This is why it is used, but it does not cater for the individual. In reality, daily calorie need is different for everyone, and even individuals have some variance each day; depending on your body composition, how active you are, your age, whether you are healthy or unwell – just to name a few. So, aiming for a specific number and getting bogged down in the detail is not necessarily helpful.

Is counting calories helpful?

Understanding calories can be helpful when it comes to making choices. Having an awareness of whether something is high or low in calories is useful when considered as part of the bigger picture. Ask yourself; where are the calories in this food coming from? Is this food high in added sugar? What other nutrients does this food offer me? Will this food sustain me? Is this something I eat often?

Counting and/or reducing calories to lose weight can work, but it is a simplistic message. Scientifically, it is correct, but this doesn’t consider the quality of the diet or life. Lower calories does not equal more healthy. For example, if we were to look at calories in insolation, it would probably be possible for a person to lose weight having 3 KitKats a day. Obviously, they would be at significant risk of nutrient deficiencies and be quite unhealthy. Probably pretty hungry too!

Good nutrition is about more than calories!

When considering whether counting calories is helpful for you or not, think about how you are using it. Try not to get too fixated on a specific number, maybe have a range you aim to be between each day. Also think about the other nutritional properties and variance in the foods you eat.

For some people, counting calories can be really off-putting and trigger disordered eating thoughts. Eating should be a pleasurable experience, if counting calories takes the enjoyment out of eating for you – is it helpful? Try to think about how you can make your diet healthier in other ways. Could you eat more fibre? Ensure you are having enough protein? Eat a wider variety of vegetables?

Food is not just calories; fibre, calcium, vitamins, omegas…
all these nutrients play an important part in our overall health.

Family life, Healthy Living

Three things I’ve learned about motherhood in the first three months

I have no idea how we got here, but here we are. We have had our little boy for nearly four months. Becoming a mum has been an amazing journey so far, and while parts of it are a total blur already (probably for good reason!), there is no better feeling in the world than seeing those shiny blue eyes stare back at me and a smile creep across his face.

I appreciate everyone has their own individual journeys into parenthood, and every person and couple will have their own challenges. This post certainly isn’t about giving advice to anyone and it’s not even strictly related to diet or health! However, I wanted to share this in the hope that my honest account of how having a baby impacted my lifestyle in the first few weeks provides you with something that you may be able to relate to, and may even find amusing.

  1. Breastfeeding is HARD
    Before baby was born, I lost count of how many people asked “are you planning on breastfeeding?”, my go to answer would be “I hope to.”

    I guess as a dietitian, I felt an added pressure to abide by the ‘breast is best’ campaign. However, from working with new mums previously, I knew that it wasn’t always possible for people to breastfeed for so many different reasons. I understood that I might not have enough milk, I knew that baby and I might have trouble getting the latch right, I knew baby might not gain weight, and I was prepared to have to work hard at it, BUT I was not prepared for how much it would hurt.

    Why does no one tell you this?! All those antenatal classes, midwife appointments and even mum friends, I kept hearing and reading that it shouldn’t hurt, but it did. Day and night. I was careful with the latch, tried several different positions and baby even had a minor tongue-tie issue corrected but it still hurt. My other half sat with me holding my hand for moral support while I fed our baby and sobbed. I thought I was doing it wrong, I didn’t feel it would ever get any better, how long would I have to put up with this pain? If it wasn’t for my fabulous mum friends and a wonderful  midwife at Cheltenham hospital acknowledging that it hurts, but it gets better, I’m not sure we’d still be breastfeeding today. I think it took about 6 weeks of this pain until it clicked; our latch improved, my sore, cracked nipples healed, and I started to enjoy feeding him.

    Many mums put so much pressure on themselves to breastfeed, but I have a new-found appreciation for how difficult it can be, and those mums I know – whether their baby is breastfed or formula fed – are all doing an amazing job and their babies are happy and thriving.

    2. Are post birth cravings a thing?!
    I never really had pregnancy cravings, but after having baby, in the early days especially, I craved sugar. I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, but it was for me. Whether that was because of the sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, hormones, irregular eating habits or a mixture of several different things, our normally healthy eating habits more or less went out of the window for the first 4-6 weeks. We had biscuits with our 2am and 4am cuppas, slices of cake during the day and our dinners might have included some veg if we had our hands free long enough to peel some carrots.

    I think in those early days you just do what you’ve got to do to get through each day, and worrying about getting your 5-a-day in doesn’t really come into it! However, a big help was having a freezer full of prepared meals I’d made when pregnant that we could just stick in the microwave (this was one of those helpful pieces of advice I mention below!)

    3. Only you know what is best for you and your baby
    It’s so cliche, but this has been (and continues to be) my mantra. So many people have advice and feel that their way is the best way; some of these people haven’t even had babies, (and I now realise I was probably guilty of this too – sorry friends!). Don’t get me wrong, some advice I’ve received has been great and really helpful, but I try to remember that every baby is different, so what worked for one won’t necessarily work for another.

    Whether you choose to co-sleep or not, breastfeed or formula, swaddle or not, introduce a routine or not, even down to how many layers of clothes you dress your baby in. Every choice we make as parents is made in the hope that we are doing what we believe is best for us and our baby.

    And that’s just it. We are all trying our best.

    Go easy on yourself.

baby1

 

Healthy Living, Recipes

Oaty Apple Crumble

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I am so pleased with how this recipe turned out!

Apple crumble has to be one of my all-time favourite desserts, and this is a great healthy version made with oats. The crunch you get from using walnuts means you can omit the butter and it’s much lower in sugar than other versions too. Let me know if you try it and what you think!

 

 

Ingredients
(for the filling)
Approximately 5 large apples
1 tsp cinnamon
(for the topping)
50g + 20g oats (or 50g oat flour + 20g oats)
50g walnuts
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200’c.
2. Cut the apples into bitesize chunks (no need to peal if you don’t want to!). Add the cinnamon and place in a pan with a lid on a low heat. Leave to stew for 5-10 minutes.
3. Using a food processor, blend 50g of the oats until you have a flour (this can take a while!).
4. Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil in the microwave.
5. Once the oats are ground, tip the honey and coconut oil into the food processor. Mix together.
6. Add the additional 20g of oats, the walnuts and cinnamon and blitz it all together until the nuts are chopped. You should have a mixture that resembles a crumble topping.
7. Tip the stewed apples into a dish and cover with the topping. Pop in oven for approx. 20 minutes, or until the crumble topping has gone slightly golden.

IMG_0201Serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt or custard!

Nutritional info per portion
(based on above serving 6 people)
Calories: 218kcal
Fat: 10g
Saturated fat: 3.5g
Protein: 3.5g

Healthy Living, Nutrition

Red meat and cancer

You may have noticed that there’s been a fair bit in the news lately about how eating lots of red and processed meat causes cancer. This latest media frenzy was caused after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a report in October stating that processed meat is a ‘definite’ cause of cancer, and red meat a ‘probable’ cause.

What are red and processed meats?
Red meat refers to all mammalian muscle meat, including, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat. Note that this list includes pork, and minced meat would also come under this classification.
Processed meats include any meat that has been salted, cured, smoked or other processes used to enhance flavour or preserve. For example; bacon, salami, sausages, ham and canned meats.

What did the IARC report investigate?
Actually, this report didn’t investigate anything new, it was an evaluation of existing evidence and research. They evaluated over 800 studies that involved the relationship between intake of red and processed meats and cancer. According to this evidence, they then worked on grouping foods into certain classifications.
(An important thing to note is that the categories in the infogram below represent how confident the IARC are that something causes cancer, not how much cancer it causes).

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Basically, what this chart is telling us, is that the IARC found sufficient evidence to conclude that high intakes of processed meats definitely cause cancer. The evidence for red meats was not as strong or clear, so is classified as a ‘probable’ cause of cancer.
Most of the evidence was linked to bowel (colorectal) cancer, and stems from a meta-analysis of 10 studies published in 2011. A key finding from this paper was that processed meat was more strongly linked to bowel cancer than red meat. They concluded that:
Every 50g/day of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
Every 100g/day of red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 17%.

However, this doesn’t mean that eating red or processed meats increases your risk of bowel cancer by 17/18%, as this is a measure of relative risk. In other words, someone who eats 50g of processed meat every day has a 1.18 times increased risk of developing bowel cancer when compared to someone who doesn’t eat processed meat. To put this into perspective, compare it with smoking (the most important avoidable cause of cancer in the world). Men who smoke 15-24 cigarettes a day have a 26 times higher risk of developing lung cancer than non-smokers.

So should I still eat red meat?
Red meat is fine in moderation, and is a valuable source nutrients including protein, iron and zinc. But, what exactly is moderation? This is much harder to quantify.
In general, the Department of Health recommends that people who eat more than 90g (cooked weight) of red meat per day should cut down to 70g or less. Try to keep processed meats such as sausages and salami as ‘occasional’ foods rather than things you eat every day. You could also try having alternative sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, lentils and pulses (kidney beans, chickpeas etc.)

In conclusion, having a diet that is high in red meat is not good for you, but the occasional bacon sandwich is still fine. And importantly, the risks are much lower than other things associated with cancer risk, such as smoking.

More info:
IARC Press release
IARC FAQs

Cancer Research, UK: Processed meat and cancer
NHS Choices: Red meat and bowel cancer
Cancer Research, UK: Smoking and lung cancer

Recipes, Reviews

Cirkle recipe kit review

Last month Cirkle kindly sent me a 3 recipe kits to try. If you haven’t heard of this company, they are a grocery home delivery service providing organic and artisan products. As well as that, they offer a free recycling service, aiming to ‘make it easy to eat well and do good’, a philosophy I can wholeheartedly agree with.

They have a wide range of products available; from fruit and vegetables to meat and dairy, lentils and pasta to baby food! Plus, they have a flexible, well-organised delivery service that enables you to find a day and time that will suit you.

With the recipe kits, you can choose to purchase each individually, or opt for a set of 3 predetermined recipes in their recipe package. Each recipe comes for either 2, 4 or 6 people and the prices (for 2 people) range from €6.24 to €20.07 per recipe. The package, to include 3 recipe kits, are priced as follows: €39.99 (2 people), €69.99 (4 people) or €99.98 (6 people).

I was very excited to get stuck in…

Warm mackerel and beetroot salad. (€15.73 for 2 people)

FullSizeRender2Firstly, the picture doesn’t do this food justice, the colour on this fruit and veg is simply amazing. But, I must admit, at first I wasn’t sure about this recipe. I’ve actually not cooked fresh beetroot before (I was put off from my mum always trying to get me to try the pickled stuff) and…warm lettuce?! But actually, this ended up being my favourite recipe of the lot. The smell as it was cooking was terrific, so mouthwatering, and the combination of colours looked appealing. FullSizeRender1
On tasting, the different textures from the raw onion, soft potato and crunchy lettuce was fantastic (you let the warm stuff cool slightly so the lettuce doesn’t wilt). The comfort of the warm beetroot was complimented by the subtle flavour of the celery and the stronger smoked mackerel. It was, quite simply, yum. And I will definitely be cooking this again.
FullSizeRenderIn terms of balance, there was plenty of veg *thumbs up*, and the meal contained a protein and potatoes as a starchy carb source – great! Also, mackerel is an oily fish, so good for poly-unsaturated fats and omega-3.
My only consideration was that I personally didn’t feel that the bread was necessary, I felt that the potato was sufficient. Especially given that this actually did us 4 meals – we both had it for lunch the following day – bargain!

Roast pork with pears and parsnips. (€20.07 for 2 people)

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This is a dish that sounded right up my street. Cooked using minimal equipment, and it contains some of my favourite vegetables and flavours. This recipe was very easy to put together, and the quality of the meat (sourced from Jack O’Shea) was obvious even before cooking.
Again, the combination of flavours worked really well. I love pear and parsnip and it was perfect with the pork, making a change from the usual apple. 20150925_222143We used all of the ingredients except half the cabbage, and there was still veg left in our pot for an extra 2 meals….I could get used to this!
I found this meal really satisfying, however, although you would be getting some carbohydrates from the vegetables, it does lack a source of starchy carbohydrate. It might also be worth tweaking the recipe slightly if you’re watching the amount of saturated fat in your diet, as cooking it all together means that the veg soaks up a lot of fat from the pork. All in all though? Another tasty recipe and I was loving all these leftovers!

Quick fresh tomato ragù with thyme. (€11.24 for 2 people)

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This dish is one of our favourites at home, and I usually don’t follow a particular recipe, so I was intrigued to try this one.
Call me lazy, but I tend to use tinned tomatoes with a handful of fresh in my ragù, so it made a nice change, and I did notice the taste difference. As with the pork, the meat was of excellent quality and really added to the dish. This is also the best wholegrain pasta 20150928_202954I have ever tasted!
With this recipe, the portion sizes were just right for 2 people (although we did have some Parmesan leftover!) Wholegrain pasta is great for slow release energy and fills you up, and the minced beef is a good source of iron. I personally would add a bit more veg in there; to include some mushrooms, courgette, aubergine or bell pepper would boost the vitamin and fibre content.
This recipe is definitely a good one for after a busy day, as it’s quick to prepare, filling and a true home comfort.

Overall, I was really impressed with the quality of the ingredients, and the recipes all tasted really good. Cirkle offer loose products as well, and you can purchase fruit or vegetable boxes, but I think that the recipe kits are definitely worth a go if you find yourself lacking inspiration in the kitchen. Given the quality and quantity you get, I think that they work out really good value too! I will definitely be using them again in the future, and look forward to trying some more of their recipe kits.

If you are one of my clients and want to give Cirkle a try…ask me about how you can get a free small fruit box in your order!

(Please note: I received this recipe kit for free, but all my opinions are 100% honest and I was not reimbursed for this review. Please see my disclaimer for more information.)

Healthy Living

FAQs – session 1

I’m opening up my brain to you guys!
Do you have a burning question about food, diet or nutrition that you’ve always wanted to know the answer to?
No matter how random, get in touch and I’ll do my best to answer in my new series of FAQs.

Due to my hectic work schedule, I sometimes eat really late at night, will this lead to weight gain?
Research shows that it’s not the time at which you eat the food, but the total amount of food consumed throughout the day that matters.

It’s not like by eating just before you go to bed you’ll immediately store those calories all as fat because…(prepare yourself! Shock…horror…!)…you still burn calories when you sleep! I know, it’s great! If you think about it, it makes total sense. You still need your heart, your lungs and even your brain to work when you’re sleeping, right? All of these processes require energy.

The one downside of eating just before going to bed might be that some people get an upset stomach from going into a horizontal position so soon after eating, but in terms of weight gain, the balance of what you eat through the day is much more important.

Are carbs fattening?
I have lost count of how many times I have been asked this question.

First of all, scientifically speaking, the term ‘carbs’ or ‘carbohydrates’ doesn’t just apply to starches, it applies to all ‘sugars’, so this includes the sugars found in dairy products, fruits, vegetables and chocolate. Fibre is also a type of carbohydrate. However, when people ask me this question, most of them are referring specifically to starchy carbs such as bread, pasta, potatoes and rice.

Starchy carbs are an important source of energy, vitamins, minerals and fibre – (fibre is important in disease prevention and some types have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, see my post on fibre for more details).Per gram, ‘carbs’ contain the same number of calories as protein, so no, they on their own are not fattening. Carbs have got their bad reputation because people often eat much more than they need, and because we tend to add fats to them. A large number of processed products are also carbohydrate based, and these often have fats added to them to enhance their flavour. Rice, pasta, potatoes, bread or cereals in sensible portions are healthy foods to include in your diet (select brown/wholewheat options to up your fibre intake).

I’ve heard that I shouldn’t eat fruit after a meal, is this true?
The short answer here is…..NO!

People have asked me this stating that they have read that eating fruit straight after a meal interferes with the digestion of food eaten.  Well I’m not quite sure where this comes from, but the truth is fruit may actually HELP with the absorption of some nutrients after a meal. As mentioned in my vitamin C post, fruits containing vitamin C may help absorb iron from foods, especially non-meat sources. Rich in nutrients, fruit is a completely healthy thing to have as a dessert.

Do I need to go gluten free to lose weight?
No. Unfortunately, the media has a big impact on what diet is perceived as ‘healthy’. Gluten free does not automatically mean less calories, sometimes it can even mean more…as well as more added sugar…!

Some people have a true intolerance to gluten and have to cut it out from their diet. Given that gluten free produce is (generally) more expensive, harder to get hold of, there is less choice available, I tend to advise people not to go gluten free unless they need to. That said, of course, health is about the bigger picture, so yes, it is possible to lose weight and be healthier by going gluten free, but do you need to do it? Certainly not.

How many eggs should I have in a week?
People are often concerned about the egg and cholesterol debate. Eggs are a great source of nutrients, quick to cook and easy to make a meal from. Egg yolks do contain cholesterol, in fact 1 egg contains around 55% of your daily recommended amount. However, it is not as simple as eating more cholesterol = higher cholesterol levels*. It has been found that saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature, mostly from animal sources) have a bigger impact on your total cholesterol level than cholesterol contained in foods.

There is currently no recommendation in place regarding a maximum number of eggs per week, but bear in mind that we should try and eat a variety of foods – so don’t rely on eggs as your sole source of protein.

*For people with familial hypercholesterolemia (a hereditary condition causing high-cholesterol), there is a recommended limit on eggs and other foods that contain cholesterol. For more information, download this comprehensive leaflet from the British Heart Foundation.

Recipes

Broccoli & Bacon Salad

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Think “salad” and I bet your immediate thought is lettuce, tomato, cucumber maybe some onion and pepper?? Well this does not have to be the case! Keep things interesting by varying your salads, and chances are you won’t get bored of them and will continue to enjoy them.

Summer is THE time for salads for many people. I think there’s something more satisfying about cold, fresh, crunchy vegetables on a hot day than having cooked vegetables. That said, I’ve always preferred raw vegetables, ask my nan, I used to live on raw carrots as a 2 year old! Anyway…I guess in summer having raw veg in salads saves us having a hot kitchen!

My SO introduced me to this salad, and it was one he discovered after a family friend made it for a BBQ. He was always going on about it, and, as I have a preference for raw veg, it wasn’t long til it became one of my favourites too. I’m not sure on the original recipe, but this is how we prepare it.

INGREDIENTS
1 head of broccoli
1 medium red onion
3-5 slices of thick bacon (cut into small pieces)
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons of creme fraiche & natural yoghurt (I use low fat versions)
Salt & pepper to taste

METHOD
1. Break the broccoli into small florets….and I mean small, like the size of your fingernail. Place this in a bowl to one side.
2. Chop the onion, also into small pieces, and add this into the bowl with the broccoli.
3. Fry the small pieces of bacon (or you can grill the whole pieces and cut them up afterwards). If you’ve fried, drain and pat the fat off before adding it to the bowl with the broccoli.
4. Scoop in the mayo with 1 tablespoon of yoghurt and 1 tablespoon of creme fraiche. Stir this in and see how it looks, it you feel it needs more “sauce”, add more creme fraiche or yoghurt.
5. Season with salt and pepper, and you’re ready to go!

NUTRITION (for 1/4 of above recipe):
CALORIES: 96 kcal
PROTEIN: 5g
CARBS: 7g
TOTAL FAT: 5g
SATURATED FAT: 1.5g

Healthy Living

Is planning the key to eating healthily?

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“Planning is the key to success”

People associate planning with success in many aspects of life, and it is often something that is also associated with food too.

There’s no doubt that planning can help make eating healthily easier when work gets busy or when you get tired, and I strongly believe that some degree of thinking ahead is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. However, the extent of planning needed can vary, and you need to find something that works for you. The idea would be that, to whatever extent you choose to plan, it eventually becomes normal and you’re able to incorporate it into your routine without even thinking of it as planning!

Planning is something I talk through with my patients, and below I’ve included some ideas I commonly suggest. These suggestions range from more drastic to small changes that could help make healthy eating easier for you. Try applying some of these to your life, depending on what you have time for.

  • Ensure your cupboards, fridge and freezer are stocked with basics to make a healthy meal. I suggest that people at least have the following, these are food items that have a relatively long shelf life and can be used to make a balanced meal:
    • Starchy carbohydrates: oats, pasta & rice
    • Proteins: eggs, beans, lentils, tinned tuna/salmon, maybe some yoghurt
    • Fruit & vegetables: tinned tomatoes, dried fruit, frozen vegetables of choice, onions, garlic, salad items
    • Spices & herbs
  • Make in bulk. Whenever you’re making a meal, make extra and freeze it.
  • Take the time at a weekend to design a menu plan for the week. You can choose whether to detail every meal, or just write down evening meals if you find this is when you struggle most.
  • Spend an afternoon at the weekend preparing all meals for the following week
  • If you prefer to buy fresh vegetables, but hate the time it takes to prepare them, try chopping in bulk and freezing. This will save you the prep time next time.
  • Have a ‘go-to’ list of meals that are quick to prepare and that can be made from ingredients you usually have in your cupboards. Examples might include:
    • Vegetable omelette with some rice
    • Tuna & sweetcorn pasta salad
    • Rice with kidney beans in tomato sauce

So is planning essential to have a healthy diet?
…I’m not saying that everyone should sit down on a Sunday, plan every meal for the following week and then spend hours preparing it all (although that may work for some)! However, having in enough ingredients to make a healthy meal is a big helping hand when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, and even that requires a little planning!